The proper care of your HDTV, phone, camera

Want to stretch your tech equipment's life? Here's how to properly clean and care for your gear

You have to take care of your stuff--all of it. Like your car and your house, your electronic gadgets big and small need to stay clean and protected from accidents.

I've already described how to care for your laptop and laptop battery, and we've covered tips for cleaning out your dusty desktop PC before. So this time around, I'll concentrate on your flat-screen HDTV, your smartphone, and your digital camera. But before I discuss these items separately, I'll tell you about the one maintenance chore they all have in common.

Cleaning Your Screen

Your HDTV, your smartphone, and your camera all have screens, and they're probably all LCDs. A dirty screen won't give you much pleasure--or much information.

Screens are delicate, however. Clean them the wrong way, and you ruin them for good.

The main tool you need is a microfiber cloth. You can get a very small one, perhaps even for free, at your optometrist's office. That's fine for a camera or phone, but if you're willing to clean a 50-inch TV with a 2-inch cloth, you have more patience than I do. You can buy larger ones for a few dollars at camera stores, electronics stores, hardware stores, or online.

Wipe the screen gently with the dry cloth. Don't press hard on it, but for particularly stubborn dirt you can apply some gentle pressure.

Most of the time that will be sufficient, but if a dry cloth doesn't do the job, you'll need to use a wet one--and that can be tricky.

Never use a glass-cleaning product like Windex. Avoid anything with alcohol in it. Don't apply the liquid directly to the screen. And don't do any of this while electricity is coursing through the device.

Distilled water is the safest and cheapest liquid for a screen. If that isn't strong enough, mix it half-and-half with white vinegar. You can find commercial LCD-cleaning fluids, but I haven't encountered any that clean better than distilled water and white vinegar.

First, turn off the device. If it's a television, unplug it. If the phone or camera's battery is removable, take it out. If you can't remove the battery, simply turning the device off will probably do.

Put the liquid into a spray bottle, and spray it onto the microfiber cloth. Wipe the display as described above, and then wait until the screen is completely dry before turning the device back on.

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